Road Trip: AAA says car still rules for Memorial Day holiday travel

Line of cars headed out of townWhen it comes to Memorial Day weekend travel, May 25-29, once again the car is the preferred mode of transport. This is according to the annual Memorial Day Holiday Travel Forecast, just released by the American Automobile Association (AAA).

“This is expected to be the third busiest Memorial Day weekend since 2000, when AAA started tracking holiday travel,” said Paula Twidale, Senior Vice President of AAA Travel.

Overall, AAA Travel says Memorial Day road trips are up 6% over last year. With 37.1 million Americans expected to drive to their destinations. This is an increase of more than two million.

The AAA press release sites gas prices being lower this holiday compared to last year, when the national average was more than $4 a gallon, as one factor. However, “despite the lower prices at the pump, car travel this holiday will be shy of pre-pandemic numbers by about 500,000 travelers,” AAA says.

In terms of when and where to travel, INRIX, a provider of transportation data and insights, expects “Friday, May 26, to be the busiest day on the roads during the long Memorial Day weekend. The best times to travel by car are in the morning or evening after 6 p.m. The lightest traffic days will be Saturday and Sunday. Major metro areas like Boston, New York, Seattle and Tampa will likely see travel times double compared to normal.”

“With lower fuel prices and more travelers on the road compared to last year, drivers should expect long delays this holiday weekend, especially in and around major metros as commuters mix with Memorial Day travelers,” said Bob Pishue, transportation analyst at INRIX. “Knowing when and where congestion will build can help drivers avoid the stress of sitting in traffic. Our advice is to avoid driving during peak hours or use alternative routes.”

Other findings of the AAA survey are:

  • Hotspots like Orlando, New York City and Las Vegas are top domestic destinations for the Memorial Day weekend.
  • Air travel over the holiday weekend is projected to exceed pre-pandemic levels, with 170,000 more passengers – or 5.4% more – than in 2019.
  • More people this holiday are taking other modes of transportation, like buses and trains. These travelers are expected to total 1.85 million, an increase of 20.6% over 2022.
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“Nearly 3.4 million travelers are expected to fly to their destinations this Memorial Day, that’s an increase of 11% over last year,” AAA reported. “Air travel over the holiday weekend is projected to exceed pre-pandemic levels, with 170,000 more passengers – or 5.4% more – than in 2019. Despite high ticket prices, demand for flights is skyrocketing. This Memorial Day weekend could be the busiest at airports since 2005.”

No matter the mode of preferred transport, it’s clear this Memorial Day weekend will prove another busy one for travelers. AAA projects, “42.3 million Americans will travel 50 miles or more from home this Memorial Day weekend, a 7% increase over 2022. This year, 2.7 million more people will travel for the unofficial start of summer compared to last year, a sign of what’s to come in the months ahead.”

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